48 Songs and counting…

I’m currently organising studio time for 2020 and took a few moments to look about at the songs I have professionally recorded to date. My first band was “The Small Change Diaries” where we recorded two albums and one EP. Since then I have recorded a debut album with “The Caravan of Dreams” which is my new ensemble.

Here are the songs I have recorded to date and a provisional listing for the second Caravan of Dreams album


  1. Adam blames Eve
  2. This Perfect Place
  3. Airport Codeine Blues
  4. There’s only one of you
  5. One day I’ll disappear
  6. Birdman
  7. Miles Ahead
  8. I’m driven here to comment
  9. This Heart wants
  10. Five String Man
  11. Hey Rona
  12. Amish frame of mind
  13. Cold Mountain


  1. Not one of us
  2. Big Tony
  3. Commons Sense
  4. Draw you out


  1. Hold on
  2. Huggie Crying thing
  3. I know what you’re saying
  4. Not one of us
  5. Kicking down doors
  6. There’s no trees
  7. Draw you out
  8. Voodoo Doll
  9. Birdman 2017
  10. Slow news day
  11. You can drop by anytime
  12. Lullaby

This sweet seduction (unreleased)


  1. Tales of Dark and Light intro
  2. Dunning Kruger Blues
  3. The pink moon
  4. All that loving, all that fighting
  5. Grey Skies
  6. One finger to block out the sun
  7. He’s shooting blanks
  8. When the pain begins
  9. Say what you’re thinking
  10. No more street parties
  11. Open up
  12. The Other me
  13. Here in the silence
  14. Tales of Dark and Light


(To be recorded) 10 tracks currently planned!

Special thanks to everyone who has played on these recordings to date and to those guests lined up for the next album

Observations on songwriting from successful musical artists

Here are some of my favorite quotes from artists on songwriting that in my view are well worth a read as these folks have dedicated their lives to this pursuit



“Songwriting’s a weird game. I never intended to become one – I fell into this by mistake, and I can’t get out of it. It fascinates me. I like to point out the rawer points of life”. Keith Richards

“Songwriting is a very mysterious process. It feels like creating something from nothing. It’s something I don’t feel like I really control”. Tracy Chapman

“I’m definitely a fan of juxtaposition. Using the most beautiful line to say the most horrific thing – I think one of the main things in songwriting is definitely friction between the words and the melody”. Rufus Wainwright

“Songwriting is kind of like a craft. It’s not something that just comes in a dream. You’ve got to work at it”. Sean Lennon

“Inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything. I go into my office every day that I’m in Brighton and work. Whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant.’” Nick Cave

“You write down a paragraph or two describing several different subjects creating a kind of story ingredients-list, I suppose, and then cut the sentences into four or five-word sections; mix ’em up and reconnect them. You can get some pretty interesting idea combinations like this. You can use them as is or, if you have a craven need to not lose control, bounce off these ideas and write whole new sections.” David Bowie

“What comes first? The melody, always. It’s all about singing the melodies live in my head. They go in circles. I guess I’m quite conservative and romantic about the power of melodies. I try not to record them on my Dictaphone when I first hear them. If I forget all about it and it pops up later on, then I know it’s good enough. I let my subconscious do the editing for me.” Björk

The story so far – writing original songs

I just finished “Tales of Dark and Light” for the new Caravan of Dreams ensemble and I was reflecting on the songs I have written to date. The first album for “The Small Change Diaries” was “Adam Blames Eve” which had 13 original songs.

This seems a lifetime ago and I look back and often think how I could have improved some of the material, but that’s part of the process of musical evolution!

The second release for the band as the Protest Songs EP with 4 songs. I like the idea of themed EPs and this included “Not one of us” and “Draw you out” which I further developed for the second album “Lullabies for Cynics” which also included a revamped version of Birdman with Laurent Zeller on violin. We shot a video for this which I think is terrific

“Lullabies for Cynics” is much more diverse than the previous material and I think the writing is a lot stronger. I started including guest musicians and both Phil Doleman and Laurent add some terrific dynamics to the material.

After two albums and an EP with The Small Change Diaries, I started writing for a new ensemble “Nick Cody and The Caravan of Dreams’ The 14 tracks on the debut album “Tales of Dark and Light” are again all originals. There are a lot more musicians on these tracks and the music is a lot more diverse. I wrote most of the tracks on either ukes or the Gregor guitarelle and then we worked up the vocals on piano in my weekly sessions with Agi. This has proved to be an excellent writing process and I think its some of the best material to date.  I’m taking a lot more time with these songs and after signing off the final mixes we are now working on the live set. The songs are a lot darker that anything I have written before and there’s a lot more detail in the song structures. Writing original songs is a fascinating process and the Caravan material is a new departure. Here is a preview of some of the songs that will be released next year. 

Here is one example


Stripping songs back to just piano and vocals

The Caravan of Dreams album is increasingly different to anything I have worked on before. The last two tracks we recorded in the studio “Open up” and “All that loving, all that fighting” are just piano and vocals from myself and Agi. As our producer commented “There’s nowhere to hide” 

This is proving to be a fascinating series of recording sessions with twelve different musicians. So far we have twelve tracks recorded and more planned before 2019. There’s a big variety of music, but I’m starting to really love the simplicity of writing and recording just vocals and piano. Agi has been a game changer in getting me to think differently about the whole songwriting process and I think the material for The Caravan of Dreams is my  best to date. The material is a lot darker and I’m spending a lot more time on working up the tracks. Although I’m often writing on the uke, the Gregor Nowak guitarelle has been essential in the writing process for this album. 

I’m far more mindful of vocal expression and the importance of arranging songs, so the title of the 2019 release “Tales of Dark and Light” is highly appropriate. Special thanks to the following who have been involved in recording this album, its a great team effort – Agi, Chris Smith, Dave Bowie, Fergus Quill, Jed Bevington, Rich Ferdi, Adrian Knowles, John Burr, Alice Higgins, Phil Doleman, Laurent Zeller  Paul Conway and of course Carl Rosamond for brilliant production. 

Tales of Dark and Light is due for release March 2019 with some low key gigs planned in 2018

What makes for great song lyrics? Some personal inspirations

I’m fascinated by language and words and lament mostly what I hear as lyrics in songs. Often what occurs is “ok” but IMO not great.

That said there are a few great ones out there, but you have to look to find them!

Here are some of my big inspirations for lyrics

Firstly, Nick Cave – here are some video clips with lyrics




Secondly an artist who nobody will have heard of, Frank Tedesso who disappeared without trace

I saw him twice, just brilliant, but you will find very little of his material anywhere, see him here 


Then of course my favorite Dylan Album “Blood on the tracks”

See – http://www.myths.com/pub/lyrics/Dylan-Bob_bott.html

Joni Mitchell is another great artist who wrote smart lyrics

FULL LIST – http://jonimitchell.com/music/songlist.cfm

One great example – http://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=37

Finally, Tom Waits who continues to inspire and mystify

Check – http://www.tomwaits.com/songs/#/songs/song/260/Day_After_Tomorrow/

FULL songs here –



Get mad, anger is great for song writing!

I was wonderfully amused by The Secret Sisters talking about how one particular character who had caused them a lot of grief, was the inspiration for a bunch of songs. In “He’s Fine” they wonderfully specifically reference Davey White

“Davey White, where is he tonight?

He’s sleeping with her in a Tennessee town and he’s fine”

I have never met Davey White or know anything about him, but he certainly provoked the creation of a truly wonderful song and so I thank him for that.

The Therapeutic Value of songwriting

Strong emotions and especially anger have fueled many truly superb songs and I have personally found songwriting and song delivery to be wonderfully therapeutic. Many of the songs I have written come from personal experiences and observations and some of the planet’s greatest fuckwits and attention seekers have inspired some of my best writing. Once a song is recorded I always raise a glass to such characters as they are invaluable in the writing process. One of the latest songs “Dunning Kruger Blues” has one of my favorite all time lines which is “I bet you’re thinking this song’s about you” 

On The Small Change Diaries second album “Voodoo Doll” was inspired by an experience with a stalker over a two year period. Eventually I secured a harassment legal order against her. This experience gave me considerable insight into how to deal with such characters who are usually status obsessed and make everything about themselves! There’s another song in the works for the solo album with a similar theme.

Please lets have some edge and I don’t mean U2

Many protest songs were inspired by anger and regardless of your personal views music remains a terrific way to communicate and express our thoughts. One of my criticisms of many uke based songs is that aside from most people playing cover versions, original material often has very little edge. Artists are described as “wonderfully ethereal” or “pleasant listening” I accept I am in the minority and when at one festival a headliner started to adopt a cod Jamaican accent my wife commented “Oh for the love of god, kill me now!” 

Anger, frustration, love and many other strong emotions can be a terrific inspiration for writing. I’m a big fan of provoking debate and discussion and of course is not to everyone’s taste. In my other life I deal with clients with anger and jealousy issues on a weekly basis so I can spot such patterms a mile off. A great song requires inspiration but also careful crafting. Simply standing in a fielf wailing about personal perceived injustice is of course not gonna create the best work, although I appreciate that for some this may be their ownly outlet for such emotions! On the next album “Tales of Dark and Light” I wrote a song called “I’m praying for some misery” The theme of the song is that often an artist’s best work comes from tough life experience and in the song I site many examples of this.

Here are a couple of verses

“I’m praying for some misery, days of endless rain,
Rising tides of water make us think again,
Nothing of comfort’s in these comfort zones,
Greater sounding melodies darker tones

Black rider’s out, playing for small change,
Busking in the forest, rain dogs out of range,
Townes tips the waiter, Steve’s transcendent blue,
Turning up the pain for something new”

That’s Entertainment Part 2

After the last blog which featured male performers, here are some more terrific  entertainers.

Victoria Vox

 Victoria Vox came over to my house with 16 other performers and her husband Jack, this May. They performed a couple of tracks in my kitchen and blew me away. Rarely have I heard such great harmonies and playing. The combination is a bench mark for all duo acts. This is music at its best, smart lyrics, great melodies and terrific playing. That’s entertainment in spades!


There are countless female artists online these days, but few who can play and sing at this level. Astraluna is quite exceptional especially live when she is playing all manner of loops, building up a sonic feast. 

The set at GNUF on the OUS stage was really exceptional and an example of genuine and crucially original entertainment

Katy Vernon

Katy is a seasoned performed and this is one of the songs that appeared on the OUS sampler at GNUF 2017. Its very catchy and a great example of how to create a simple captivating tune.  Live she has great skills to engage an audience and creates a really good range of music which is rare these days.

Nicole McNally

This is a great example of a younger emerging artist with a great voice. I have never seen her live, but in my view this clip suggests great things ahead.  One of proofs of a good entertainer is when somebody can play a simple tune and entertain an audeince


These are 4 great  entertainers. There are of course many more, but these are the ones that come to mind. They are this time all original artists but that wasn’t the main consideration in picking them. The world is better for such folks.

Singer inspirations

I was asked recently by a fellow musician, who my inspirations are as singers. I have talked a lot in the past about songwriter inspirations, but singers are slightly different.

Here are some examples that have been a big influence on my own work

As you can see and hear, these are very different artists, but they all have a unique style and write great lyrics. I’m a massive fan of original music and all four artists have in my view done a great deal to push the boundaries in a world that’s too full of “cookie cutter” music.

Aside from Tom Waits I have seen the other artists live and they have never failed to disappoint. The smartest and best music is usually ahead of the curve in terms of popular opinion. Other singer songwriters I love include Stevie Wonder, John Hiatt, Ani Difranco, Daryl Hall, Joni Mitchell, Steve Earle, Nick Lowe, Bob Dylan among others. All have a definite point of view and regularly inspire as well as frustrate me with their output!

If you are going to do cover versions as well as original songs, then it doesn’t get much better than Daryl Hall and “Daryl’s House” is essential viewing/listening for any singer


Interview with Phil Doleman

Transcript of Nick Cody interview with Phil Doleman 

nick cody: Hi, this is Nick, and I’m here with the mighty Phil Doleman 


Phil Doleman: Hello, nice to see you, Nick.


nick cody: Good to see you, Phil. Down in Belper. I thought, seeing as I have the opportunity to talk to Phil, I’d talk to him about the very many things that he’s involved in, starting off with the new book, which has been out for how long?


Phil Doleman: It was released at the end of August.


nick cody: Okay.


Phil Doleman: How Music Works On The Ukulele, yeah.


nick cody: What inspired you to write How Music Works On The Ukulele?


Phil Doleman: Well, at workshops lots of people were asking me, “Can you recommend a music theory book? Because I want to learn a bit more about this theory, but I don’t want to have to learn to play the piano or read music.” And I couldn’t recommend anything. There was just nothing that talked about theory and how all this stuff worked together, but was mainly aimed at chords, which is what ukulele players are playing most of the time, and didn’t involve having to learn all of the sort O level music stuff. That’s where it came from really, more of an accessible version of the music theory.


nick cody: What sort of interest have you had since you’ve launched it?


Phil Doleman: It’s gone crazy. I think I’ve sold almost 700 copies with no advertising, and the only other places it’s been available is through World Of Uke shop, the rest of it has sold direct from me. No budget, no nothing. Just Facebook posts and that’s it, yeah.


nick cody: Well, clearly people are enthused.


Phil Doleman: Yeah.


nick cody: I know that with the uke, we’ve talked a lot about this, a lot of the time people have this idea that it’s an easy instrument to play.


Phil Doleman: Yeah, well, the funny thing about playing an instrument is, there’s two aspects to it. There’s the physical thing of playing an instrument and then there’s music. Music is the same whether you’re playing a tenor guitar or a banjo or a ukulele or whatever. Music is the same. The rest of it is taking what’s in your brain or what you hear, and turning it into music via whatever medium you choose, whatever instrument you choose. Yeah, it’s pretty easy to pick up a uke and show someone a couple of chords, and unlike the violin, if I strum a C chord or anyone I’ve just shown strums a C chord, they’ll sound like anybody else strumming a C chord. Whereas, a violin, you go through that screechy phase of producing a tone. Beyond that, it’s just as hard to play music on any instrument, because it’s much more about music than it is about the instrument. People know me as a ukulele player, but they’ve just seen me playing … And you as a ukulele player and you’re playing a tenor guitar and I’m playing a tenor banjo.


nick cody: I’ll be lynched. He’s moved over to the Dark Side.


Phil Doleman: But these are not tuned like ukuleles, these are completely different instruments. But if you understand how notes work together to make chords and how chords work together to make song it’s actually quite easy to get to grips with another instrument and fit those same notes together in the same way. If you’ve got an understand of how music works. That’s the title!


nick cody: So for people watching this, and they’ve got that ukulele, they’re happily playing their certain number of cords and may be part of a ukulele club, but they want to progress and develop. What would your core advice be for people like that?


Phil Doleman: I think you’ve got to develop your ear, and I think people concentrate far too much on this aspect and this aspect. So you’ve got develop your ear, and the only way to do that is to listen a lot, and really listen, not just have music on, but listen to it and think to yourself while listening, “What’s happening? Can I do that? Or if I’m playing that song already, do I do it like that? Or is there something different from what I’m hearing to what I’m playing?”
That’s how you develop the ability to jam with other people. Like, we were just playing together then, I mean, that’s not something we’ve played together before other than just quickly going, “How does it go?”


nick cody: About an hour ago.


Phil Doleman: Yeah, it’s that. So, it’s the idea of listening, and hearing it in your head, and then being able to… I think the easiest way to develop your ear is to sing.


nick cody: Yeah.


Phil Doleman: And a lot of people who play are a bit frightened of singing, because maybe they’ve been told that they can’t sing, or they’ve just never done it with any, it takes a certain amount of confidence. But if you can hear something, and then sing it, then it’s in there, it’s got as far as there and this apparatus, we’ve already had a lifetime to learn how to use to turn something we can hear there to something here. So, that’s quite easy.
The hard bit is turning something that you hear there to something coming out to your instrument.


nick cody: Yeah.


Phil Doleman: But if you can sing it, you’ve done the first bit, which is actually quite hard I think. So sing!


nick cody: I think there’s a lot of truth to that. As somebody whose previously was not a singer, and I’ve had my first ukulele lesson years ago with my dear friend and co-performer, Small Change Diaries Jessica, who said in the first lesson, “Let’s sing a song!” And I went, “WOO!” In shock.
But I have to say it absolutely does something in the brain to pay more attention, without fail.


Phil Doleman: And if you think about all of the jazz greats, who are playing instruments that they don’t have to blow, will come along, and sing along, with all of you. If you listen Thelonious Monk play the piano, he’s singing and humming to himself as he’s doing it. If you listen to people like Jim Mullen on guitar or people like that, even if they’re not singing out loud, you kind of see their lips moving a little bit, and that’s because they’re not going, “Oh, that sounded nice.” They’re actually going, “I want to make this sound,” and singing helps to get that idea out of their brain and out into the world.
And you would see other people like George Benson who will play mind-blowing guitar solos and sing them at the same time.


nick cody: Yeah.


Phil Doleman: And you know then that he is completely in control of his instrument, because what’s coming out of here is matching what’s coming out of here.


nick cody: Yeah.


Phil Doleman: It’s all about listening and that’s what music is. People forget that quite often. It’s just vibrations in the air and how you create them is completely up to you, and what instrument you use.


nick cody: I hear you’re back playing with Ian.


Phil Doleman: Absolutely, yes! [crosstalk 00:07:30]


nick cody: Duo gigs all over from what I’ve been seeing.


Phil Doleman: And it’s such great fun to do it again, because most people know Ian as uke player, but for a long time before that he was a guitarist and quite a busy, successful guitarist, and it’s so great to have… we’ve always had that kind of chemistry where we just play and kind of lock in together, and that is something that is actually quite hard to learn. But if you find someone it works with it’s great, and it’s lovely for me because Ian’s just, he is my entire band. So he’s my drummer and my bass player and my guitarist all rolled into one. Which means I can relax, and I can just do stuff over the top of that, and that Ian’s always going to back me up all the time on that. And, he’s also a harmony singer, so it’s lovely to have a little bit of vocal harmony come in, and just lift the vocals a little bit. But yeah, we’re having great fun with it.
And the stuff we play now, it’s so loose that we don’t have to play the same thing every time. We can surprise each other, we can throw little things in as and when we feel like it. Change the tempo of the song, change the feel of the song, and just go with it, which is a lovely thing to be able to do.


nick cody: Well, I didn’t know him so much, I knew him sort of as playing with you, because I saw him play Good Enough last year.


Phil Doleman: Yeah.


nick cody: But I saw some clips on YouTube, and I was like, “Oh my God!” He can play any Jazz stuff. [crosstalk 00:08:54]


Phil Doleman: Oh, absolutely.


nick cody: He can sing! So I was really, not that I was underestimating Ian if you’re watching this, I’m not underestimating you, but I thought, “Oh my God!” I mean, he is solid, solid performer.


Phil Doleman: Oh absolutely, he’s one of those guys. It’s just like we were talking about there. An amazing ear. So, when it comes to rehearsal time for a new song, we don’t ever go through the whole, “Let’s write this, let’s work it out.” It’s like, “What key is it in? Play it.” By the time we’ve around it once, he’s there. By the time we’ve gone around four or five times, he’s got so really some really nice little bass runs or little interesting bits. And, as he will tell anybody, what takes, then it takes six weeks before we can perform it, because I can’t remember words. But if there were no words to remember we could do a song one day and perform the next. And that’s Ian’s trick whether he plays the guitar or the uke, an incredible good ear. I think that’s something that a lot of players, it never occurs to them to think how to listen to stuff, which is important.


nick cody: And I hear you are also doing stuff overseas now as well.


Phil Doleman: Yes, I was lucky enough to go to the West Coast Ukulele Retreat last year, I’m going back again this year. It’s an amazing experience, there’s like anything I’ve been to in the UK. It’s not a festival, it’s truly a retreat for a relatively small number of people, around about a 100 people.


nick cody: Okay.


Phil Doleman: Who stay there for several days, this year there’s actually an extra day for people that want it. So it would be from Tuesday to Sunday, and it’s full time table. You get up in the morning share your meals with all the students. You have breakfast and then you go and teach, and you coffee and then you teach, and then you have lunch together and then you teach, and then by the time you get to the evening they’ll be some kind of evening event, but you will be… if you’re not… not so much performing, more facilitating other people performing. So might in the house band for other people, or you might be working on some way of backing up people to encourage them to get up to see sing songs you’ve worked with them during the day.
One things we all had is all the chiefs just have a band, and you teach the band that song.


nick cody: Oh wow.


Phil Doleman: An arrangement, and you train them. But then, they go and perform it in the evening. It’s very, very hard work, but it’s really rewarding and it’s unlike anything I’ve done in the UK.


nick cody: Wow.


Phil Doleman: Plus, you get to the West Coast of America and go to San Francisco.


nick cody: Not to shabby!


Phil Doleman: No! It’s a nice place to go, it’s gorgeous!


nick cody: So, if people want to find out about what’s happening in the world of Phil Doleman what’s the best way for them to do that.


Phil Doleman: The website is phildoleman.co.uk, all one word, and you find me on Facebook, I’ve my own page but I’ve also got Phil Doleman music page on Facebook. And, yes, all of those have all the gig lists and the workshops and things like that, and also if come along to a festival, next one is going to Grand Northern Ukulele Festival at the beginning at May. And I’m at a lot of festivals, and just come and say hello, and accost at a festival somewhere and take it from there.


nick cody: Well, thank you so much for chatting to us.


Phil Doleman: Always a pleasure mate, always a pleasure.


nick cody: Cheers.


Phil Doleman: Cheers.


I do love a tortured artist and dark lyrics…

I was listening to Bruce Springsteen on Dessert Island Discs talking about his favorite music and struggle with depression recently and I started thinking about the subject of “the tortured artist” It seems to me that many artists create their best work when they are experiencing tough times in life. There are many examples of this and I have previously blogged about two of my favorite albums “Blood on the Tracks” by Bob Dylan after his divorce with his wife Sara and “Tonight’s the Night” by Neil Young after the death of band member Danny Whitton.  The first (and many say best) Tori Amos album “Little Earthquakes” also had the track “Me and a Gun” which was about a traumatic life experience.

David Bowies classic trilogy “Station to Station”, “Low” and Heroes were all written when he was having emotional struggles and of course there are numerous other examples. Personally I like a sad old song sung from the heart and many classic songwriters like Loudon Wainwright, Richard Thompson and Leonard Cohen are famous for their tales of woe. Over the years I have had the great fortune to learn from Martin Simpson and we have often talked about folk music that has a jolly melody which belie a dark set of lyrics. One great example of this is “Two Sisters” also known as “The Wind and the Rain”

“There were two sisters of county Clair
Oh, the wind and rain
One was dark and the other was fair
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
And they both had a love of the miller’s son
Oh, the wind and rain

But he was fond of the fairer one
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
So she pushed her into the river to drown
Oh, the wind and rain
And watched her as she floated down
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain

And she floated till she came to the miller’s pond
Oh, the wind and the rain
Dead on the water like a golden swan
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
As she came to rest on the riverside
Oh, the wind and the rain

And her bones were washed by the rolling tide
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
And along the road came a fiddler fair
Oh, the wind and rain
And found her bones just a lying there, cried
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain

So he made a fiddle peg of her long finger bone
Oh, the wind and the rain
He a made a fiddle peg of her long finger bone, crying
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
And he strung his fiddle bow with her long yeller hair
Oh, the wind and the rain

He strung his fiddle bow with her long yeller hair, cried
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
And he made a fiddle, fiddle of her breast bone
Oh, the wind and rain
He made a fiddle, fiddle of her breast bone, cried
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
But the only tune that the fiddle could play was
Oh, the wind and rain
The only tune that the fiddle would play was
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain”

This is not exactly the most cheerful song of course but it does make me wonder that many artists create their best work when in a dark place and many of the best lyrics come from such places. Give me a tortured artist singing a dark tale from his or her own life experience above the dreadful TV “talent shows” that seem to clog up the airwaves these days…